13-Year-Old Racer Connor Okreszik Turning Heads at Mobile International Speedway

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Okreszik1By Kyle Brandt
 In their free time, most middle school students can be found playing video games with their friends or at the local swimming pool. Mobile’s Connor Okreszik is not your typical 13-year-old; however, as he elects to spend his free time with a much different pastime.
Rather than at home with a controller in hand, Okreszik spends his weekends grasping on to a steering wheel instead—competing at Mobile International Speedway (MIS) in the highly competitive Sportsmen division at the high-banked half-mile speedway. With just two starts under his belt in his rookie campaign at the track, the St. Luke’s Episcopal School student is already turning heads and getting attention from his fellow racers.
Following a methodical charge through the field during last Saturday’s feature at MIS – which included passing some of the biggest names in the division along the way – Okreszik finished in the second position when the checkered flag waved. Although it wasn’t a win like he would have liked, the runner-up effort was a major improvement compared to the sixth-place result from one month prior. It also sent a message to his competitors that he will more than likely be a factor throughout the remainder of the season.
After winning the 2014 Semi-Pro Legends Car championship at nearby Sunny South Raceway in Grand Bay (Ala.), Okreszik and his family elected to take the next step in the young driver’s career by making the move to the much bigger and faster MIS. Purchasing the championship-winning Sportsmen car of Mark Barnhill, they immediately had in their possession a piece capable of immediate success—and their recent second-place effort backs it statement up.
Stepping into a car that is already a proven winner would be added pressure to most drivers, but Okreszik; however, doesn’t agree.
“We have done a little bit to [the car], but mostly body work,” said Okreszik earlier this week. “I really don’t feel like I have any more pressure than I already do have, but I am under pressure because I am the youngest driver at Mobile International Speedway as of right now.”
Although early indications show that he has bucked the learning curve associated with the move to MIS, it is still a very steep one. Coming from the quarter-mile Sunny South Raceway, moving to the big track just down road in Irvington is like moving from Martinsville Speedway to Talladega Superspeedway for NASCAR drivers.
Additionally, the Legends car he competed in there is a vastly different animal than the much bigger and faster Sportsmen that he races at MIS.
“The Sportsmen are quite a bit tighter than the Legends car,” he explained. “In the Legends car, you are turning on the steering wheel almost all the way around the track. The Sportsmen has power steering while the Legends doesn’t, which makes it more of a workout turning the Legends car in my opinion.”
Despite adapting quickly to his new surroundings though, Okreszik’s goals for the 2015 season remain exactly the same as they were before it even started. Part of the aforementioned goals do include one or more trips to victory lane, but you won’t hear the word “championship” uttered from his mouth as it relates to his efforts at MIS—or at least not yet.
“This season at Mobile, what I really want to have accomplished is a few wins under [the Sportsmen] class,” Okreszik explained.
Like most young drivers competing at local short tracks throughout the country, the ultimate goal for the avid Tony Stewart fan is simple: to make it to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“My aspirations in the long run would be how most asphalt racers would be: to be in the top division of NASCAR, the Sprint Cup Series,” he explained.
Although it will require many stones to fall in the correct places along the way, Okreszik has the determination and skillset to make it a reality. At only 13-years-old, he has already proved to be a quick learner who can adapt to new tracks– which is a necessity in the big leagues of stock car racing who compete on a wide variety of speedways during their season.
Whether it includes competing against his role model, Tony Stewart, on Sunday afternoons in the Sprint Cup Series, Okreszik has a clear goal of where he hopes to be ten years from now.
“Ten years from now, I see myself still as a developing driver who still has places to go, but is getting better,” he said. “In ten years I see myself as a good driver although I have no idea what division it will be in.”
Despite his rookie campaign at MIS having only just begun, Okreszik has already placed himself solidly on the list of drivers to watch between now and the end of the season in September. And depending on how things unfold between now and then, the “c” word which he is reluctant to say at the current time, might be a reality with an exclamation point at the end that includes hoisting the division crown.
Gulf Coast racing fans can catch Connor Okreszik and the cars and stars of Mobile International Speedway in action on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at Alabama’s fastest half-mile. Up next for the speedway includes the Pepsi 100 for the Pro Late Models; as well as racing from the Pro Truck, Sportsmen and Bomber divisions.
About Mobile International Speedway: Mobile International Speedway is the longest continuously operating sports facility in Mobile County. It was built in 1964 and has presented weekly motorsports events every year since then. As an indication of increasing community acceptance and enthusiasm, both the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mobile Sports Authority became MIS partners beginning in 2013.
Family attendance and participation have been the keys to the track’s continued success. Kids 5 and under are always admitted free to the grandstands. Family nights and family-oriented shows have always been staples of the annual MIS schedules. Over 30,000 people will attend the 14 scheduled MIS events in 2015.

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